Christmastide was a time for fun and frivolity. Parlor games made up a large part of the fun.
They were played by all classes of society and often involved overstepping the strict bound of propriety. Losers often paid a forfeit, which could be an elaborate penalty or dare, but more often were a thinly disguised machination for getting a kiss. Often, forfeits were accumulated all evening, until he hostess would ‘cry the forfeits’ and they would all be redeemed.
Here are a few of the games that might have been played during Christmas parties of the Regency.
Blind Man’s Bluff and variations there of
Many variations of this game existed, including Hot Cockles, Are you there Moriarty, and Buffy Gruffy. All the variations include one player being blindfolded and trying to guess the identity of another player who had tapped them or who they have caught. A great deal of cheating was generally involved, which only added to the sport.
BUFFY GRUFFY is recommended as a fit substitute for Blindman’s buff for those good folks whose nerves could ill support the racket of the legitimate Blind-man's Buff, or were afraid of having their toes trod on, or their furniture bruised and battered. One player, with a blindfold over the eyes, stands in the middle of the room. The others arrange their chairs in a circle and silently trade places. Someone claps to start the game. The blindfolded person passes around the chairs and stops in front of one. The player may use his knees to determine if someone is sitting in that chair, physical contact generally not permitted in polite social contexts, especially between gentlemen and ladies.
The blindfolded player begins questioning the seated player who answers while disguising their voice as much as possible. Here is an excellent opportunity for an individual to mock someone they do not like all under the guise of polite hilarity. After three answers, the blindfolded player must guess who they have questions. If they are correct, the seated player takes the blindfold and play begins anew. Else, the blindfolded player moves on to question another.
STEAL THE WHITE LOAF
A chosen player, ‘it’, stood with their back to the others and a ‘treasure’ on the floor behind him/her. Another player would try to sneak up and steal the treasure. If ‘it’ turned around and saw them moving, then they would be ‘caught’ and become ‘it’.
HOW D'YE DO? HOW D'YE DO?
The players stand up in a circle. The first person begins jumping up and down in the stiffest manner possible, holding their head up high in front of another player crying, "How d'ye do, How d'ye do, How d'ye do, How d'ye do?"
The other jumps in the same manner, cries, "Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who," The first person then names another of the party, stops jumping, and resumes his place in the circle. ‘Tell me Who’ then jumps up to the person indicated, crying, "How d'ye do?" and the game continues making sure to include every player in the activity.
Each person is supposed to be sick. The doctor comes, and feelings the pulse of the first patient, and inquires his disorder. The doctor orders a remedy in contrast to the patient’s complaint. For example : If the patient complains of cold he orders something hot, such as a pint of boiling aquse-fortis, with an ounce of cayenne pepper; if of a burning fever, he orders a basket of snow -balls, two at night, one in the morning; if of a sour stomach, a quart of decoction of Sweet-William, with a pound of treble refined sugar, every four hours; if head-ache, the soles of the feet to be tickled every night at bed-time : if fatigue, eight and forty hours' sleep : and other things equally outrageous.
After going all round, the doctor addresses any one of the party, and says, "__________(One of the players) is ill of such a complaint. What would you order in that case?'' If the player cannot remember the remedy prescribed, he must pay a forfeit. The next player is asked a similar question, until all the players have been queried.
One player takes the role or Lord or Lady. The rest of the players take on the name of some article requisite for the toilette, such as comb, curling-irons, powder-puff, mirror, etc. The Lord or Lady will call for some article. The player who is that article trades places with the Lord or Lady and the play continues. If a player does not jump when called or forgets their article, a forfeit is paid. For variety, the Lord or Lady may call ‘All my toilette’ and everyone must jump up and change seats(and take the toilette article of the player who had been in that seat.). The player remaining without a seat becomes the Lord or Lady and play continues. The players must not forget the change of names which takes place, otherwise they are subject to a forfeit. The quicker the game is played the more the fines will be multiplied.
Find more parlor games here.
Revel, Rachel. ‘Winter Evening Pastimes or The Merry Maker’s Companion’. (1825)
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